Delving into the South's youngest, most exciting scene: South Florida.
"Betcha Rozay never ever heard no shit like this," Denzel Curry rapped earlier this year on his track "Lord Vader Kush II," contrasting his own trippy sound with the in-your-face pomp of his hometown's biggest rap export. Since the mid-2000s, Miami has produced two of rap's loudest voices in Rick Ross and DJ Khaled, as well as their more traditionally-minded signees Ace Hood and Gunplay. These guys put a city on the map that was previously most-known for booty bass, but at this point, they're far from the most interesting thing happening in South Florida. Curry's line speaks to the disconnect that's present in the scene-- on the surface, nothing really revolutionary is happening in the region, but dig a little deeper and you'll find the richest young scene in the South.
We can trace the lineage of weird, uncompromising Florida rap back to SpaceGhostPurrp, founder of the Raider Klan crew who also had close ties to A$AP Mob, before some issues caused them to fall out. Around the turn of the decade, Purrp became an internet phenomenon thanks to his dank, gothic evolution of early Three 6 Mafia sounds that painted the Miami landscape as a much darker, foreboding place than the images of palm trees and pastel colors that usually spring to mind. Especially on his 2012 debut album, Mysterious Phonk, he carved out an interesting, artful niche that had reverberations across hip hop, leading to production work for Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and Project Pat. Tracks like "Mystikal Maze" presented a much more attractive alternative culture for kids who couldn't relate to the fantasies Rozay and Khaled were selling.
Unfortunately, Purrp and his Raider Klan had a short-lived moment in the spotlight, with a few of the crew's most talented individuals cutting ties and Purrp himself actually announcing his retirement from rap a few times. The remaining members linked up earlier this year for another mixtape, but with Purrp only appearing on two tracks, the vibrant swagger that was there on their past releases was lacking. The most exciting things are now happening on the group's fringes.
Curry, a former member, really came into his own on this year's 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms, a marked improvement on 2013's Nostalgic 64. His deeply psychedelic sound made A$AP Rocky's dabbling with shrooms and LSD on A.L.L.A. seem like child's play, and he found ways to incorporate that influence that went far beyond cheap imitations of acid rock from forty years ago. He mined the consciousness-expanding material of Stankonia-era OutKast, even picking up a feature from Dungeon Family soothsayer Big Rube, and presented a chillingly expansive soundscape for some 52 minutes.
In addition to promising guests and Curry affiliates that showed up on the project, such as JK The Reaper and Nell, a few other guys who were at one point tangentially connected to Raider Klan have had banner years in 2015. The first of these is Yung Simmie, who was actually one of the few bright spots on the crew's recent tape, but really came into his own on October's Basement Music 3. Linking up with "We Made It" architect PurpDogg and even trying his hand at some production, Simmie made street rap that was charmingly odd, where horrorcore sounds were mixed in with utterly random samples. The project's highlight has Simmie going in over a loop of jazz vocal standard "Blue Moon," which works really well for how absurd it sounds.
Robb Bank$, who's nabbed some Purrp production in the past but was never officially a Raider, also broke out in a big way this year, starting with his black metal-inspired 2phoneshawty EP and getting even better on his official debut album, Year Of The Savage. His ominous trap stylings have earned him a rabid cult following, leading to a headlining tour in the South this year and a deal with 300 Entertainment. Replacing Purrp's mysterious swag with an aggression that matches his metal affinity, Bank$ is certainly in contention for underground rapper of the year.
It's not all gritty, horror-inspired indie raps down Miami way though-- there are also some up-and-comers poised for mainstream attention. Chief among them is Kodak Black, the Drake-cosigned rapper who hails from Pompano Beach, a small town about an hour north of Miami. His early 2015 tape Heart Of The Projects took a while to gain traction, but after a few appearances on OVO Sound radio, the 19-year-old quickly became a household name, thanks to indelibly catchy tracks like "No Flocking" and "SKRT." He counts Lil Boosie as his favorite rapper, but hews a bit closer to Atlanta than Baton Rouge in his trappy sound.
Something like the South Beach answer to Fetty Wap, Khaotic also emerged as a force to be reckoned with this year. His single "Dime Piece" is the only thing on this list that Rick Ross has acknowledged, as he remixed the infectious summer jam a few months back. Also racking up a Kevin Gates collab this year, Khaotic capped off a breakout year with his Boola tape, which points to a promising future of big hooks and bright beats.
That's really only scraping the surface of what South Florida currently has to offer the hip hop world though. Clustered crews and collectives seem to be a dime a dozen down there these days, each more unique and promising than the next. PayUpGame counts two HNHH favorites, Cherele and André DeSaint, as members, and is making huge strides with its Neptunes-influenced minimalism. Cherele's Paradise Lost and DeSaint's Quit Your Job EP both contain features from members of Awful Records and stand on their own as accomplished, cohesive works from two very talented up-and-comers.
The intriguingly-named Wifisfuneral (AKA the light skinned Trick Daddy) has also developed quite a boisterous scene around him, deploying a wide variety of sounds and styles all in service of the turn up. He toured with Robb Bank$ earlier this year, and along with Pouya and Indigochildrick, is really finding a lane in his local scene. We'll just have to see if they can translate it to national fame. SKYXXX, Max P, and Keez all lend their talents to the dope posse cut "SURRRF," which you should definitely check out below.
As you can see, it's almost impossible to categorize, or even round up all of the various movements and scenes happening in and around Miami right now. The torches of indie rap, horrorcore, trap, pop, and R&B are all being borne by a motley cast of artists who all seem to synthesize a number of Southern styles while remaining relatively untethered to traditional Florida rap. This sort of creative hub is a rare treat to witness anywhere in America, especially in the South, where Atlanta is often cited as the only rap scene that matters. Indeed, it's the birthplace of trap, the most nationally prevalent style of rap at the moment, and it's produced a whole host of stars-- no one's debating that it's the most successful city in terms of Southern rap. But pay some attention to other scenes, because before you know it, places like Miami could catch up. Some awesome shit is going down in South Florida right now, you just have to dig deeper than Khaled and Rozay.